The best Lovecraftian horror books

4 authors have picked their favorite books about Lovecraftian horror and why they recommend each book.

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Can You Sign My Tentacle?

By Brandon O'Brien,

Book cover of Can You Sign My Tentacle?: Poems

This book of poems is a truly unexpected combination of current pop culture, social commentary, and cosmic horror--and a hugely enjoyable read. It deals with the themes of sacrifice, thoughtless loyalty, collusion, survival, colonialism, and the very idea of the monstrous. How do we know when the forces around us are asking too much of us? How can we trust what we will get in return? How do our personal histories inform how we will respond to the void when it comes knocking? A lively, thoughtful read.  


Who am I?

I wouldn't call myself a cosmic horror expert, but I've read quite a few of the expected authors--Dunsany, Machen, Lovecraft, Blackwood, Howard, etc--and I've written novels and short fiction in the genre and have been asked to panel and talk about it for years at professional events. How can a fictional narrative contain villains so powerful that human beings have no way to understand, let alone resist them? I like exploring that impossibility in my own writing, and I feel compelled to subvert its historical legacy of colonialism and racism where I can. It is not a genre that needs reclaiming but rewriting, and it is rife with possibilities. 


I wrote...

Beneath the Rising

By Premee Mohamed,

Book cover of Beneath the Rising

What is my book about?

Nick Prasad has always enjoyed a quiet life in the shadow of his best friend, child prodigy, and technological genius Joanna ‘Johnny’ Chambers. But all that is about to end. When Johnny invents a clean reactor that could eliminate fossil fuels and change the world, she awakens primal, evil Ancient Ones set on subjugating humanity. From the oldest library in the world to the ruins of Nineveh, hunted at every turn, they will need to trust each other completely to survive…

John Dies at the End

By Jason Pargin, David Wong,

Book cover of John Dies at the End

Possibly the most famous book on this list, this book was included not for its fame, but for the author’s ability to handle the Eldritch/Cosmic horror trope and make it hilarious. A wonderful mix of horror and comedy, the pseudonymous Wong is also the main character in the book. His first-person narration paired with other details paints this book as an actual series of events that he is risking his life and all of reality by telling you these bizarre events. An homage to the Lovecraftian style and several real-world paranormal mysteries will surely entertain readers, however for writers, it shows you how to blend the real-world, inspiration from other literary worlds, and your own creative content to make a fantastic story. 


Who am I?

I read my first chapter book in Kindergarten, and have been fascinated by literature ever since. From writing a Halloween story in 3rd grade that made my classmates cry and the teacher call my mom, to graduating from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, literature has always been a big factor in my life. As a new writer myself and paired with my long list of books stored on my shelves and in my mind, I simply would like to give my two cents on the stories that caused my inspiration to blossom. 


I wrote...

The Shadow Dies Loudly: 27 Tales

By T.L Oberheu,

Book cover of The Shadow Dies Loudly: 27 Tales

What is my book about?

Within this book are 27 chilling tales. 27 pieces of madness about the things that stalk the dark outside, and things that lurk within us. Stories about murder, revenge, insanity, terrors from beyond our world, failure in every facet of life, and reality itself breaking into fragments. This collection descends into madness with the reader: what starts with two serial killers telling the other how they will kill them, ends with a group of college students who enter a place where the fabric of reality does not quite work the way they are used to.

The dark corners of your bedroom at night will never be the same.

Night Winds

By Karl Edward Wagner,

Book cover of Night Winds

Ooooh, my goodness. Kane is possibly the best anti-hero ever created, and the combination of cosmic horror, swords, sorcery, action, and awesome storytelling make these books/story collections stand out for me. Kane is an immortal, cursed by a mad god to wander the Earth “until he is destroyed by the violence that he himself has created,” and is a take on the biblical Cain, but a lot more fun. Kane inspired one of the characters in my book series and he may just edge out Conan as my favorite lead in the sword & sorcery genre.


Who am I?

There are books and series I’ve loved that I’ve only read once, with no need to re-open those particular pages. There are other books that I can re-read every year or so without exactly remembering the details of the plot and enjoy them just as much the second (sometimes tenth) time around. They all inspired me to write, plus they all provided me with awesome entertainment.  So, in no particular order…. Five books/series that I’ve re-read at least a half dozen times!


I wrote...

Plague Town: An Ashley Parker Novel

By Dana Fredsti,

Book cover of Plague Town: An Ashley Parker Novel

What is my book about?

Ashley was just trying to get through a tough day when the world turned upside down. A terrifying virus appears, quickly becoming a pandemic that leaves its victims, not dead, but far worse. Attacked by zombies, Ashley discovers that she is a 'Wild-Card' -- immune to the virus -- and she is recruited to fight back and try to control the outbreak. 

It's Buffy meets The Walking Dead in a rapid-fire zombie adventure!

The Graveyard Shift

By D.M. Guay,

Book cover of The Graveyard Shift: A Horror Comedy (24/7 Demon Mart Book 1)

There should be no doubt for anyone who follows me that I love any tale that involves an underdog loser forced to either save the world or die trying. Even better if it involves rampaging tentacle beasts and other Lovecraftian horrors. Throw in a talking cockroach with a serious attitude problem, and you have a perfect recipe for that succulent dish known as horror/comedy. Definitely, a must-read for anyone who enjoys a good laugh in between their screams.


Who am I?

I’ve always loved both horror and comedy. So imagine my delight discovering the two could be blended together into a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. Movies such as Ghostbusters, Army of Darkness, and Big Trouble in Little China are perfect examples. In each, you have a potentially terrifying situation, coupled with characters who are too full of themselves to play the victim – yet not quite competent enough to be the hero either. It’s inspired me to spend countless hours behind my computer crafting my own horrific worlds, coupled with characters who simply refuse to take it seriously. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.


I wrote...

Bill The Vampire (The Tome of Bill Book 1)

By Rick Gualtieri,

Book cover of Bill The Vampire (The Tome of Bill Book 1)

What is my book about?

Meet Bill Ryder. He drinks too much, curses, a lot, and spends way too much time playing D&D with his asshole friends. Now he’s about to get bitten by a vampire. Too bad for him, even the undead have standards.

It’s hard to live forever when everyone wants you dead.

The Fisherman

By John Langan,

Book cover of The Fisherman

This book tells a small, human story of grief and loss, set in a cleverly nested series of reveals about the horror of the history of a particular area. What I loved most about this book was the grandness and scale of the eldritch creatures that the characters face (at different times, with different weapons, and with varied ideas of what on earth is going on)--this felt truly cosmic to me, a real look into the abyss. I also loved how the horrors were presented in the mind as well as the world, which constantly kept me on my toes.


Who am I?

I wouldn't call myself a cosmic horror expert, but I've read quite a few of the expected authors--Dunsany, Machen, Lovecraft, Blackwood, Howard, etc--and I've written novels and short fiction in the genre and have been asked to panel and talk about it for years at professional events. How can a fictional narrative contain villains so powerful that human beings have no way to understand, let alone resist them? I like exploring that impossibility in my own writing, and I feel compelled to subvert its historical legacy of colonialism and racism where I can. It is not a genre that needs reclaiming but rewriting, and it is rife with possibilities. 


I wrote...

Beneath the Rising

By Premee Mohamed,

Book cover of Beneath the Rising

What is my book about?

Nick Prasad has always enjoyed a quiet life in the shadow of his best friend, child prodigy, and technological genius Joanna ‘Johnny’ Chambers. But all that is about to end. When Johnny invents a clean reactor that could eliminate fossil fuels and change the world, she awakens primal, evil Ancient Ones set on subjugating humanity. From the oldest library in the world to the ruins of Nineveh, hunted at every turn, they will need to trust each other completely to survive…

Hammers on Bone

By Cassandra Khaw,

Book cover of Hammers on Bone

Khaw, known for their genre-spanning sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, does a terrific job flipping the script on many older cosmic horror tropes in this cosmic horror noir novella. In crisp, graceful prose we watch as the unknowable monsters threatening our hero (and his client) turn out to be human, and the powerful forces assisting them are the more traditional horrors. I love it when cosmic horror is presented in a way that lets imagination do the work, and Khaw delivers here--leaving mysteries intact, and letting the reader scare themselves.


Who am I?

I wouldn't call myself a cosmic horror expert, but I've read quite a few of the expected authors--Dunsany, Machen, Lovecraft, Blackwood, Howard, etc--and I've written novels and short fiction in the genre and have been asked to panel and talk about it for years at professional events. How can a fictional narrative contain villains so powerful that human beings have no way to understand, let alone resist them? I like exploring that impossibility in my own writing, and I feel compelled to subvert its historical legacy of colonialism and racism where I can. It is not a genre that needs reclaiming but rewriting, and it is rife with possibilities. 


I wrote...

Beneath the Rising

By Premee Mohamed,

Book cover of Beneath the Rising

What is my book about?

Nick Prasad has always enjoyed a quiet life in the shadow of his best friend, child prodigy, and technological genius Joanna ‘Johnny’ Chambers. But all that is about to end. When Johnny invents a clean reactor that could eliminate fossil fuels and change the world, she awakens primal, evil Ancient Ones set on subjugating humanity. From the oldest library in the world to the ruins of Nineveh, hunted at every turn, they will need to trust each other completely to survive…

Winter Tide

By Ruthanna Emrys,

Book cover of Winter Tide

I was honoured to panel with Emrys at a con a few years ago, where it was clear that she was a cosmic horror expert and had done reams more reading on its context, legacy, influences, and analysis than the rest of us. What she writes with all that scholarship, though, is deeply human, affecting, and emotional. In focusing on the persecuted people of Innsmouth, this book becomes a study of family and connection, and answers in a very different way the traditional cosmic horror questions of 'What is a monster?' and 'How do we decide what should be called monstrous?'  


Who am I?

I wouldn't call myself a cosmic horror expert, but I've read quite a few of the expected authors--Dunsany, Machen, Lovecraft, Blackwood, Howard, etc--and I've written novels and short fiction in the genre and have been asked to panel and talk about it for years at professional events. How can a fictional narrative contain villains so powerful that human beings have no way to understand, let alone resist them? I like exploring that impossibility in my own writing, and I feel compelled to subvert its historical legacy of colonialism and racism where I can. It is not a genre that needs reclaiming but rewriting, and it is rife with possibilities. 


I wrote...

Beneath the Rising

By Premee Mohamed,

Book cover of Beneath the Rising

What is my book about?

Nick Prasad has always enjoyed a quiet life in the shadow of his best friend, child prodigy, and technological genius Joanna ‘Johnny’ Chambers. But all that is about to end. When Johnny invents a clean reactor that could eliminate fossil fuels and change the world, she awakens primal, evil Ancient Ones set on subjugating humanity. From the oldest library in the world to the ruins of Nineveh, hunted at every turn, they will need to trust each other completely to survive…

Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe

By Thomas Ligotti,

Book cover of Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe

Thomas Ligotti is one of the few writers whose work genuinely, profoundly scares me. His vision is underscored by an all-too-convincing commitment to pessimistic philosophy (which is accessibly detailed in his 2010 book The Conspiracy Against the Human Race). Songs of a Dead Dreamer is haunted by the philosophical outlooks of E. M. Cioran, Arthur Schopenhauer, H. P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Allan Poe, but Ligotti’s fixation on marionettes, dolls, and the illusory nature of human agency is singular and distinctive. This is a masterpiece of existentially disturbing dark literature.   


Who am I?

Mike Thorn is the author of Shelter for the Damned, Darkest Hours, and Peel Back and See. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, and The NoSleep Podcast. His books have earned praise from Jamie Blanks (director of Urban Legend and Valentine), Jeffrey Reddick (creator of Final Destination), and Daniel Goldhaber (director of Cam). His essays and articles have been published in American Twilight: The Cinema of Tobe Hooper (University of Texas Press), The Film Stage, and elsewhere. 


I wrote...

Darkest Hours

By Mike Thorn,

Book cover of Darkest Hours

What is my book about?

Between the covers of Mike Thorn’s debut collection, Darkest Hours, you will find academics in distress; humans abusing monsters; demons terrorizing people; ghostly reminiscences; resurrected trauma; and occult filmmaking. Ranging from satirical to dreadful, these sixteen stories share a distinct voice: urgent, sardonic, and brutal.

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